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If you can’t say anything nice…

While some divorces are amicable and involve couples that are committing to treating each other fairly, others wouldn’t be out of place in an old Roman Coliseum. Both spouses are angry and determined to include a pound or two of flesh in the property distribution agreement.

Venting is a common byproduct of this hostility. Although it’s not the most mature thing to do, some disgruntled husbands will take the stereotypical route and vent to his buddies at the bar while some wives will schedule a “girl’s night” where roasting the other spouse is on the agenda.

While these actions don’t usually cause any harm, there are extreme cases where one party is determined to destroy the other by:

  • Sending malicious emails to the spouse’s family, friends, and boss or clients (Susan is a thief! She steals from you!”)
  • Posting accusations on Twitter or Facebook (“Brad is a terrible parent! He never spends money on the kids!”)
  • Badmouthing the other parent to the children (“Mommy doesn’t love you! If she did, she wouldn’t have moved out.”)

If you indulge in these types of behaviors, then you risk legal consequences. New York law defines defamation as a false statement that is either published or revealed to a third party without the consent or knowledge of the person you are talking about. These statements are generally meant to humiliate or put down the person.

In New York, your spouse could theoretically sue you for per se damages, meaning that they don’t have to prove that your statements caused them economic injury or loss if what you said was inherently harmful. These lawsuits arise from false claims made about a person’s:

  • Sexual morality
  • Health status (e.g., diseases)
  • Criminality
  • Professionalism

This means that if you post on Facebook that your wife is sleeping around or that your husband has an STD when you have no evidence of either fact, then you could be sued for damages. Other comments that don’t fall into any of the above categories can also get you in trouble, although your spouse would have to prove actual damages, such as reduced business income.

You could also jeopardize your relationship with your children by disparaging their other parent. It is not uncommon for an angry husband or wife to use the kids to get back at their spouse. They say that Daddy left because of the children, or Mommy hates the family.

Doing so can backfire because New York recognizes parental alienation, which is a willful attempt to interfere with the other parent’s relationship with the children. In some cases, alienating your children from your spouse can cause you to lose custody.

When you’re angry at your spouse during a divorce, the best thing to do is follow your mother’s advice: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything.” The last thing you want to face is legal action that could cost you money and damage your rights as a parent.

Jayson Lutzky is an experienced and highly sought-after divorce attorney practicing law in New York State. His office is located in the Bronx and he offers free in-office initial consultations. He has helped thousands of clients file for both contested and uncontested divorces over the years. You may reach his office at 718-329-9500.

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